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This thesis explores and investigates how companies located in a second-tier region of an emerging economy have benefited from the adoption of corporate sustainability (CS) programmes. Considering that these companies are immersed in tougher day-to-day problems and struggles than those located in developed countries, it would not be surprising that sustainability compliance is seen as another issue to deal with. Hence the importance of better understanding and providing them with tools that would enable a sounder contribution to sustainable development.

The literature indicates a misalignment between sustainability and strategic management at corporate level, resulting in failed efforts or outcomes far from intended (Amini & Bienstock, 2014; Chowdhury et al., 2015; Engert et al., 2016). Adding to this, when the context where CS is adopted presents less favourable and more challenging conditions, such as emerging economies, the endeavour becomes more daunting for companies. Despite this, the study of sustainability from a business standpoint has so far received little attention from this context (Bezerra et al., 2020; Dobers & Halme, 2009; Silvestre, 2015). Even scarcer is the literature from the perspective of second-tier regions, fraught with harsher circumstances.

Scholars also recognise a dearth of empirical research focused on elements that would help to conduct CS from its design to its implementation (Galpin & Whittington, 2012). This thesis takes up this opportunity to explore and identify the Dynamic Capabilities (DCs) (Teece et al., 1997) that have supported this implementation process, focusing on the benefits they have brought to organisations. Furthermore, this research recognises the uncertain environment and paradoxical demands that companies face when implementing CS (T. B. Porter, 2008; Vildåsen et al., 2017; Wu et al., 2013), which can aggravate and make this task more arduous, but can also favour the companies’ development and boost their abilities to cope with these challenging conditions. Therefore, it also incorporates the perspective of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) (Amui et al., 2017; Lozano et al., 2015; Williams et al., 2017). Based on these elements, this thesis is guided by the question: How do complexities in a second-tier region in Mexico enable firms to capitalize on the implementation of their programme for sustainability?

To answer this question, a multiple and holistic case study design was selected, where five large companies located in the Yucatan peninsula (a second-tier region) in Mexico either accredited as socially responsible or following sustainability as one of their business guidelines, were sampled. At each case, semi-structured interviews with staff involved in the design of the strategy for sustainability, responsible for implementing the strategy or staff whose activities have been affected by the strategy, were conducted at their workplace. The transcribed interviews were analysed using a descriptive case approach paired up with thematic analysis.

The thesis poses that the environment of changing demands and uncertainty that companies face when implementing sustainability programmes leads them to a series of changes that enhance their adaptive capacity as a system through the DCs utilised, and thus benefits are gained not just for the sustainability programme, but for the overall firm function. It is assumed that the adaptive changes in the system are the vehicle through which the benefits of DCs are realized by the firm. The findings show that companies are enabled to capitalize on the implementation of their programmes for sustainability in three different, but interrelated, ways: by leveraging their DCs in support of the system's adaptability mechanism, by achieving DCs’ benefits supporting the sustainability programme, and by achieving DCs’ benefits supporting the overall firm.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Trautrims, Alexander
Chesney, Thomas
Keywords: corporate sustainability emergent economy dynamic capabilities complex adaptive systems
Subjects: H Social sciences > HC Economic history and conditions
H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 71225
Depositing User: Lopez Castellanos, Fatima
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2023 15:05
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2023 15:05

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